Rocky Knob Park Trail System

Rocky Knob Park is a purpose-built mountain bike trail system. It features trails that allow riders to progress their skills in authentically challenging terrain. The park is home to about 9 miles of trails that climb to the top of and descend from Rocky Knob Mountain.

photo: Chad Oliver rides the Stone Binge Skills Area Type: Mountain Bike Trail
Length: 9.00 miles
Loop Trail? Yes
Allowed Uses: Bicycling (off pavement)
Dogs - On leash
Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running
Rock Climbing
Snow - Cross-country Skiing
Wildlife Observation
Agency:
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

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Directions

Location: Boone, NC
States: North Carolina
Counties: Watauga
Latitude: 36.2219   Longitude: -81.62756

Park entrance is located on US 421 South, 0.7 miles east of Bamboo Road on the east side of Boone.

Description

Significance of the Trails
The trails at Rocky Knob Park offer mountain bikers authentically challenging, skills-based progression opportunities on public land. Riders are provided with terrain and trail features that allow them to develop their skills as a mountain biker in purposeful ways. The trails showcase an understanding of the needs and desires of modern riders in combination with environmentally sustainable design and construction.
Prior to the construction of trails at Rocky Knob, mountain bikers had no legal access to trails in Watauga County. With about 9 miles of trails complete, the park’s trail system now sees an abundance of local and visiting riders. Riders often report “riding Rocky Knob makes you a stronger rider” and comment on the fun factor of the trails.
The land was acquired by Watauga County in 2009 for the expressed purpose of building a mountain bike park. Through a series of acquisitions, the park is now a 185 acre facility hosting trails as well as an Adventure Playground, picnic shelter, and a pump track. The trails have been featured in many local magazines and papers and nationally featured in Freehub Magazine’s web video “44 Days and Rolling,” Velo Magazine’s 9 North American Hotspots issue, and the Washington Post’s Travel section.

Trail Innovation
While Rocky Knob hosts about 9 miles of trails in a stacked loop system, its most unique features are four skills areas. Designed for skills progression, the areas are: Jump Start: a beginner skills areas with small rollers, jumps, berms, “skinnies (linear logs to ride), and rock gardens. Skinny Skills: an intermediate skills area with skinnies and board walks to negotiate including “Logzilla,” an 80 foot linear skinny. Stone Binge: an advanced skills area with elevated board walks, rock drops, advanced rock gardens, and elevated skinnes. The PBJ Skills Trail: This is an advanced downhill trail featuring berms, jumps, drops, and rock gardens.
The park is also home to one of the largest pump tracks on public land in the area. This feature is a compact area of shaped dirt meant to provide riders of all ages opportunities for challenge, skill development, fun, and fitness.


Design and Construction
Trails were built with a hybrid approach of professionals and volunteers. The design follows a stacked loop system to access a smaller knob and the summit of the Rocky Knob Mountain. Each loop provides an increase in challenge and elevation. Through purposeful design, users can also connect various loops to create extended outings.
The park is situated on the north side of the mountain and is full of boulders, rock walls, and a complex hydrology all of which challenged the designers, builders and volunteers to be innovative in their techniques. The trails were machine built (except in a few areas) to a three-foot width with grade reversals as key sustainability features. Machines could not access all areas due to boulders. In these areas, many hundreds of volunteer hours were spent hand building crib walls, puncheons, and boardwalks. To date, volunteers have logged over 3000 hours of work on the trails. Many of these hours can be attributed to Appalachian State University’s (ASU) students and class projects.

Maintenance Plan
The Boone Area Cyclists (BAC), a 501c3, was formed in part, to assist in the creation of the park. BAC volunteers were key partners with the county and professional build teams to build the park. The BAC is responsible for the maintenance of the trails. Due to the quality of construction, limited maintenance has been needed.

Partnerships and Community Support
In 2009 two $5,000 grants were secured from the Bikes Belong Foundation and Specialized Bicycles. These grants were made possible through a partnership with the BAC. In the same year, Watauga County, in partnership with the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority (WCTDA), received a $500,000 grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) to assist with the acquisition and development for Rocky Knob Park. In 2011, the BAC received a $5000 Adopt A Trail Grant for use at Rocky Knob. The park also received a $30,000 Health Grant from Communities Putting Prevention to Work. The BAC also gave $5000 for trail tools.
In 2013, a fundraising campaign commenced to fund the pump track. Local businesses contributed about $4000. In October 2013, The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Kids in Parks program, the Watauga County Parks and Recreation, and the Boone Area Cyclists signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on a Bicycle TRACK Trail at the Rocky Knob Bike Park. The Kids in Parks Foundation contributed $2000 to the pump track.

Programs and Events
Following the park’s unique approach to skill development, Rocky Knob has hosted three International Mountain Bicycle Associations Take A Kid Mountain Biking Days. These events have been planned and delivered by a partnership with ASU’s recreation management programs faculty and students.
Each fall and spring the park hosts festivals to celebrate recreation and the community. Each festival draws about 100 people and hosts guided rides, bike demos from national manufacturers, a BBQ, and fundraising raffle. The park also has hosted ASU’s Cycling Team’s home races.

Safety

The trails address user safety through design techniques, skills-based learning opportunities, and unique signage and trail rating systems. The stacked loop system provides the easiest trails to be the most accessible and requires riders to put forth considerable effort to access the more difficult features. The skills areas allow riders to test their capabilities in increments and should give them an indication of what features are appropriate for them. Riders have access to descriptive maps of all trails and skills areas complete with pictures. The trails are rated in the traditional Blue, Black, Double Black style. The skills areas feature a unique system of “Chili Peppers” for each feature in the area. One Chili pepper is a “mild” (easier) feature. A 5-Chili Pepper feature is “Wild Spicy” (most difficult and consequential). The trails feature EMS points and local rescue have been trained on access points and locations of all trails and skills areas.

Additional Details

Width: 36 inches.
Primary Surface: Soil, Compacted
Secondary Surface: Boardwalk
Gravel
Puncheon
Rock, boulders

Average Grade: 10%
Elevation Low Point: 3,300
Elevation High Point: 4,030
Year Designated: 2014

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Map: Example of Signage for skills area.
Website: The Rocky Knob Blog
Website: Interactive trail map
Website: Rocky Knob Promotional video

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Public Contact:
Ken Johnson
President, Boone Area Cyclists
Boone Area Cyclists
P.O. Box 361
Boone , NC 28607
828-264-7309
info@booneareacyclists.com

Trail Management:
Stephen Poulos
Director
Watauga County Parks and Recreation
231 Complex Drive
Boone , NC
828-264-9511
stephen.poulos@watgov.org

 

Photos

Example of skills area.

Example of skills area.

Building a trail feature.

Building a trail feature.

 

Programs at Rocky Knob: Take a Kid Mountain Biking

Programs at Rocky Knob: Take a Kid Mountain Biking

Volunteers clearing trail.

Volunteers clearing trail.

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